Take the Bull by the Horns

13 May
Forty years ago, I was within a couple of short weeks of graduating from high school, and felt like I could do anything. But everywhere I turned, I was hearing that I would end up flipping burgers for a living, if I didn’t get a college education. After twelve years of school, that was the last thing on my agenda! Instead, I opted to join the Navy, and see the world!

After a decade of military service, I tired of living on the edge of poverty (my starting pay was $123.90 per month, before taxes!), and decided to get out, use my G.I. Bill and go where the real money was. A couple of years later, I got my associates degree in management, and found that it didn’t open any doors for me, which really shouldn’t have been any surprise. Several years later, I decided to pursue my engineering degree, and got my BS in electrical engineering. That, as it turned out, did open a few more doors, and I soon found myself getting slightly better offers than before.
However, I learned that the business world still valued experience highly, sometimes even over formal education. I managed to scramble my way up the ladder into management, and found that I enjoyed that a lot more than engineering, so I changed my focus to business management.  That put me squarely at the bottom of the pile again, as an associates degree did little more than give me a leg up on the competition for that coveted mail room lackey position.
Back to school, for my MBA… rewrite my résumé… fire off a million or so copies… pump my professional network for all it was worth…BINGO! I landed a good job in management, and started working my way up from there. And all this took only thirty years or so!
Had I listened to the naysayers early on, I probably could have accelerated my progress tremendously… who knows? Still, many very successful people achieved their goals without a college education. A lot of dropouts are household names now. Mary Kay Ash, Sir Richard Branson, Simon Cowell, Barry Diller, Kerk Kirkorian, Ralph Lauren, Rachael Ray, even Bill Gates… they all dropped out of either high school or college, to pursue their dreams.
These people must have something in common. What is it? Is it drive? Luck? Native intelligence? Willingness to take risks? An associate of mine says it’s initiative. I don’t know if that’s the single greatest element in their respective successes, but I’m pretty certain that without it, they would never have achieved what they have. Initiative, by itself, doesn’t guarantee success, by any means, but I think the lack of it pretty well guarantees some degree of failure.
For my part, I’d rather employ an uneducated person with drive, than a complacent genius.
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3 Responses to “Take the Bull by the Horns”

  1. osteoliom May 16, 2010 at 12:46 pm #

    Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!

    Cheers
    Christian

  2. neighborofthebeast May 20, 2010 at 8:24 am #

    Hey Madman.. thanks for this post…

    I imagine that most people spend their entire lives not knowing what they want to do with their life.. and among them are very few that even realize it. Sure, they get the “education”… then “the job”.. and then 30, 40 years later they meet someone like yourself, just as successful… and they realize, maybe, that it’s they who don’t have nearly the life experience that you have… and they don’t truly feel the same level of achievement when they “compare notes”….
    But I agree with you and your associate, initiative is key. “Education” doesn’t teach it, nor is it a benefit that “the job” offers. Quite the contrary, it’s initiative that generates real individual education, not to mention jobs.
    Those that possess it AND know exactly what they want to do with their lives are hardly stoppable.
    I always tell people that if I could be granted 3 wishes, the first would be simply to know what I want to do in life… and screw the other 2 wishes.. I’ve got enough initiative to burn a hole through to f%#king China!

    Keep em comin’ Doc.. were out out here…

    • Doc May 20, 2010 at 9:15 am #

      Thanks for the comment, bud! Nice to see you drop by.

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